You may be surprised to know that many people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) still find it very scary to talk about their struggles, or even share that they have ADHD. Unfortunately, past experience has taught them that talking about their ADHD opens them up to a great deal of unsolicited advice and judgement from people who know next to nothing about ADHD. Others can be just as uncaring and dismissive when joking about their ADHD afternoon. How would you like it if others thought that something you struggled with on a daily basis was a joke?
I’m not sure why people feel so free to comment about ADHD when they would not comment about other neurodevelopmental disorders like Autism or a learning disability. Nor would they voice their misbelief that depression or other mental health disorders exist. ADHD has been medically classified as both through an abundance of medical research. That research has also shown that ADHD can reduce healthy life expectancy by more than two decades.
As a result, parents of children with ADHD don’t often share what they are going through unless it is with other parents who have lived it. Kids don’t want their friends to know and many teens and adults just struggle in silence.
Because of this stigma few families with ADHD speak with their elected officials about the emotional and financial costs of ADHD. Without pressure from their constituents, these officials have little interest in offering more resources and services for those with ADHD even though ADHD has significant socioeconomic costs. Even though it may be scary, CADDAC, the Centre for ADHD Awareness Canada has been asking children, adolescents, adults and parents to open up about their struggles with ADHD through ADHD Speaks, an online awareness campaign where people impacted by ADHD can use their voice.
We have also developed several awareness videos, an animated video series explaining ADHD to kids and now a five-part video series for adolescents.
Seven brave teens allowed themselves to be filmed sharing their thoughts, struggles and successes for a series of five educational videos targeting adolescents with ADHD.
Katelyn Weinstein, a sixteen-year-old with ADHD in the videos, explained her wish to speak out like this, “Being vulnerable about my ADHD story is my way of telling the world it’s okay to be wired differently, and it’s okay to get help. I want other teenagers with ADHD to feel less alone but I also want those who underestimate how serious ADHD can be to see it for what it is so more people like me can get the treatment and support they need.”
The video series developed by the Centre for ADHD Awareness Canada (CADDAC) features four girls and three boys ranging in age from 13 to 22 talking about what it was like to learn they had ADHD, their daily struggles with a wide variety of impairments caused by ADHD, treatment and strategies that help and also the things they like about their ADHD.
They also shared how frustrating they find it when others continue to question the validity of ADHD and make light of their unseen and misunderstood challenges.
Everyone affected with ADHD needs to be as brave as these seven teens so others can begin to understand that ADHD is not a joking matter but a serious medical condition with lifelong consequences.
Heidi Bernhardt is the Founder and President of the Centre of ADHD Awareness Canada (CADDAC).